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Passed – Spring is Here! Tour of Old Germantown Gardens

Spring is Here! Tour of Old Germantown Gardens

How many of us gardeners dream of a big piece of land to call our own and let our plant obsessions run wild?

For Bruce Wakefield and Jerry Grossnickle, creators of Old Germantown Gardens, that dream is reality. They’ve been gardening here for over 30 years and have transformed a scrubby 5-acre property into a plant paradise.

Old Germantown Gardens

In summer, lush herbaceous perennials fill the beds, but in March, evergreens steal the show

Bruce is heavily involved in HPSO, having served as president for years, and countless visitors have toured his garden. The garden is probably best known for the stunning displays of Giant Himalayan Lilies in summer, but I got the chance to visit in late March and there are still plenty of jaw-dropping vistas and plants on display.

After greeting me on my arrival, Jerry commented on my car, “What kind of Honda is that? It looks like you could fit a lot of plants in the back.”

Bruce can rattle off the names of the 2,000+ varieties of plants throughout the garden and has spent years tracking down unique and rare plants from around the world.

These guys know their plants!!

Bruce, ever the plant collector, bought plants and stored them on the property for 2 years before they moved into the house. They recall having to haul garbage bins full of water to keep all the potted plants alive.

The 5-acre property is steeply sloped and sits near Forest Park where herds of deer and elk make their home.

Old Germantown Gardens

Countless tons of rock make up the rock walls that line the paths along the hilly gardens

Toward the edge of the garden, the lines between the cultivated garden and native woodland begin to blur. A huge deer fence separates the landscaped garden and the woodland that Bruce and Jerry have restored with native plants, a slow process since the area was logged about a hundred years ago.

Old Germantown Gardens

One of Jerry’s big projects last summer was repairing the walking trails through the acres of forest beyond the garden boundaries. Cleared, leveled wood chip paths wind through the hills and across small streams that lead down to the creek.

There was an incredible amount of spring blooms on display in March. The hillsides were covered with thousands of hellebores, the first magnolia blooms were just opening, and rhododendrons from soft pinks to rich reds filled the garden with color.

Old Germantown Gardens

Hellebores are displayed perfectly at eye level on the hillside

Old Germantown Gardens

Old Germantown Gardens

After wandering the boggy gardens and hellebore-smothered hillsides, I thought the garden tour was over. But I turned another corner and was struck by the incredible change.

The dry garden filled with cacti, agave, yucca, and other desert-inspired plants transported me to another world.

Old Germantown Gardens

Familiar conifers blend with plants suited to this dry part of the garden

Old Germantown Gardens


Old Germantown Gardens

Walking through the dry garden, I entered the terrace and patio connected to the house, offering stunning views over the entire garden down the hill.

But on a chilly March day, stepping into the heated tropical greenhouse was a real treat. Bruce stores dozens of mature tender plants in the greenhouse during the winter and places them on the terrace when the weather warms up. While I was too thrilled with the plant collection to take photos, I did get some video so be sure to watch the video tour above!

Old Germantown Gardens

Old Germantown Gardens

A collection of Protea in beautiful terracotta pots sits outside the greenhouse door


Old Germantown Gardens

Old Germantown Gardens

And of course, Bruce has an enviable collection of seedlings and potted plants waiting to find their permanent home in the garden.

Thank you, Bruce & Jerry, for the tour of your beautiful garden!

Years of hard work and patience have paid off. This garden is filled with treasures around every corner and is beautiful any time of the year.

Now that spring is officially here, the HPSO Open Garden season has begun!

Click here to view the online member directory to schedule a garden visit.


Join one of the West Coast's largest gardening communities and meet other gardeners who share your passion.

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